[Federal Register: December 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 232)]
[Page 70421-70422]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact for Okefenokee National 
Wildlife Refuge in Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties, Georgia, and 
Baker County, Florida.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact 
for Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are available for distribution. 
The plan was prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997, and in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and describes how the refuge will be 
managed for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the plan may be obtained by writing to George 
Constantino, Refuge Manager, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Route 
2, Box 3330, Folkston, Georgia 31537; or by calling 912/496-7366. The 
plan may also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's Internet 
Web site http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The availability of the draft comprehensive 
conservation plan and environmental assessment for a 45-day review 
period was announced in the Federal Register on August 2, 2005 (70 FR 
44355). The draft plan and environmental assessment evaluated four 
alternatives for managing the refuge and Alternative 2, ``Integrated 
Landscape Management,'' was selected as the preferred alternative to 
guide management direction over the next 15 years.
    Under Alternative 2, landscape management will be emphasized. 
Threats to the refuge are more prominent as development increases in 
northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. Although Okefenokee Refuge is 
a large system in itself, it can be greatly compromised by activities a 
distance away from its boundary. Under this alternative, the staff will 
extend beyond the immediate neighbors to address issues associated with 
the aquifer, air shed, and biota exchange pathways. Extensive resources 
sharing and networking with other refuges, state agencies, 
organizations, specialists, researchers, and private citizens will 
expand the knowledge base and assist in developing cooperation between 
interest groups. Restoration of natural systems, native communities, 
and healthy environments will be emphasized, thus promoting a high 
quality of life regionally. Within the refuge, the original refuge 
purpose, natural processes, and the wilderness philosophy will be 
strongly considered in all decisions. Monitoring environmental 
parameters, fauna, and flora will be incorporated into an integrated 
study to gain knowledge on the health of the Okefenokee ecosystem. The 
refuge and surrounding area will be promoted, linking recreational and 
educational avenues. Education and outreach will be expanded with an 
emphasis on the health of the whole ecosystem and the links between the 

[[Page 70422]]

    Approximately 371,000 acres of the Okefenokee Swamp wetlands are 
incorporated into the refuge; and 353,981 acres within the swamp were 
designated as wilderness by the Okefenokee Wilderness Act of 1974, 
making it the third largest National Wilderness Area east of the 
Mississippi River. In 1986, Okefenokee Refuge was designated by the 
Wetlands Convention as a Wetland of International Importance.
    The swamp is considered the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. 
Marys Rivers. Habitats provide for threatened and endangered species, 
such as red-cockaded woodpeckers, wood storks, indigo snakes, and a 
wide variety of other wildlife species. It is world renowned for its 
amphibian populations that are bio-indicators of global health. By 
combining Okefenokee Refuge with Osceola National Forest, private 
timberlands, and state-owned forests, more than 1 million contiguous 
acres provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Nearly 
400,000 people visit Okefenokee Refuge each year making it the 16th 
most visited refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1999, 
the economic impact of tourists in Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties 
in Georgia was more than $67 million.
    Implementing the comprehensive conservation plan will enable the 
refuge to fulfill its critical role in the conservation and management 
of fish and wildlife resources within southeast Georgia, maintain 
wilderness qualities, and provide quality environmental education and 
wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities for refuge visitors.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: February 23, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register November 29, 2006.
[FR Doc. 06-9495 Filed 12-1-06; 8:45 am]